Rough weekend for the Phillies? Brutal, actually. A four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds was supposed to be the easy, breezy part of the road trip. Instead, the Phillies dropped three games in a row at Great American Ball Park. After scoring nine runs on 18 hits — including seven home runs — in the opener Thursday night, they scored six runs on 19 hits in the series' final three games combined. But hey, at least they traded for infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, who can't help but give the offense a boost despite going 0 for 8 with three strikeouts in his first two games for the Phillies.
Now comes the hard part. The Phillies will open a two-game series Monday night at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, who lose only about once a week. They have baseball's best record (74-33) and are on pace for 112 wins, which would shatter the franchise record of 105 set way back in 1912, the year Fenway opened. So, the Phillies will throw their two best starting pitchers — Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta — at the Sox and hope for the best.
You're signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday during the Phillies season. If you like what you're reading, tell your friends it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber. Thank you for reading.
— Scott Lauber (email@example.com)
Two questions arose after the Phillies traded for infielder Asdrubal Cabrera on Friday night.
The first question, ultimately, is less relevant than the second. Manny Machado was the one true difference-maker on the trade market, and once the Baltimore Orioles chose to send him to the Dodgers, the Phillies focused on the best of the rest. Cabrera's defensive shortcomings at both shortstop and second base make him an imperfect fit. But his .817 OPS for the New York Mets was better than every Phillies hitter except Rhys Hoskins, so he will deepen the lineup regardless of what position he plays.
Now, though, with the trade deadline looming at 4 p.m. Tuesday, the focus shifts back to general manager Matt Klentak and his ability to make another move to further strengthen the roster. The Phillies could still add another hitter and continue to pursue Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. But Jones has the right to veto any trade, and Orioles general manager Dan Duquette told reporters Sunday that he "would expect Adam will be with us after the trade deadline," even if the club prefers to trade him.
So, let's assume that Jones stays put. According to the Dallas Morning News, the Phillies are among a few teams that have asked about Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo, a lefty-hitting outfielder with big-time swing-and-miss power who isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season.
But if the Phillies do anything, it's more likely they will add to the bullpen. There has already been a run on relievers, with Brad Hand (Cleveland Indians), Jeurys Familia (Oakland A's), Zach Britton (Yankees), Joakim Soria (Milwaukee Brewers), Ryan Pressly (Houston Astros) and Brad Brach (Atlanta Braves) changing teams. But there are plenty who could still be moved, including Rangers closer Keone Kela and the Miami Marlins' trio of Kyle Barraclough, Adam Conley and Brad Ziegler.
Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ, the two starting pitchers most often linked with the Phillies, were dealt to the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees, respectively, over the weekend. And the asking price for Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer is predictably prohibitive. If the Phillies are going to improve their pitching staff, it figures to be by adding another late-inning reliever to help shorten games.
Some Phillies players, including right fielder Nick Williams, acknowledge they have begun peeking at the standings after some games, as Matt Breen writes. With Sunday's loss to the Reds, their division lead is down to 1 1/2 games over the Braves.
Remember that bat-flip flap between Asdrubal Cabrera and Phillies reliever Edubray Ramos? Ancient history, they said, as they became teammates over the weekend.
The addition of Cabrera figures to cut into Scott Kingery's playing time at shortstop. But the rookie infielder says he isn't going to change a thing.
Jim Thome went into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, and in capturing the moment, Bob Brookover posed an interesting question: Who is the nicest man ever to be enshrined in Cooperstown? Anyone who has met Thome knows he's on the short list, for sure.
Rob Tornoe catches up with former Comcast SportsNet anchor and Phillies reporter Leslie Gudel.
Tonight: Aaron Nola vs. Red Sox lefty David Price at Fenway Park, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Trade deadline at 4 p.m.; Jake Arrieta vs. Red Sox at 7:10.
Wednesday: Off-day for Phillies, but Extra Innings forges on.
Thursday: Phillies host the Marlins in opener of a four-game series, 7:05 p.m.
Friday: Shane Victorino will retire as a Phillie before game vs. Marlins, 7:05 p.m.
Last week, I was chatting with a scout from a National League team about several infielders who were thought to be available before the trade deadline. When Asdrubal Cabrera's name came up, I wondered if he was still capable of playing shortstop, his primary position until this season when the Mets began using him exclusively at second base.
"No [bleeping] way," the scout said, noting that Cabrera isn't particularly reliable at second base, either.
So I checked out the defensive metrics, knowing that the analytics don't always concur with a scout's observations. In this case, they're in agreement. Among 202 infielders who have played a minimum of 50 innings at shortstop since 2012, Cabrera ranks 201st in defensive runs saved (minus-51), trailing only former Mets teammate Jose Reyes (minus-65). At second base, he's last among 81 players this season with minus-18 defensive runs saved.
It's clear, then, that the Phillies determined Cabrera can provide enough of an offensive boost to outweigh his defense. And regardless of what position he plays, they will have enough infielders (Scott Kingery and eventually injured J.P. Crawford and Pedro Florimon) on the bench to replace him for defense late in games.
Question: Nick Pivetta makes me feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and Lucy pulls it away! Every time I feel like I can trust that he's finally figured it out, he'll have three or four outings where he looks like he can't hack it as a starter. Do you think he would be better suited for a move to the bullpen where he can just go all-out for one inning or two and not have to try and pace himself for five or six innings? Love the newsletter! — Sam M., via e-mail
Answer: Hi, Sam. Glad you're enjoying Extra Innings! My opinion — and I think most Phillies officials feel the same way — is that Pivetta is best suited to be a starter.
Yes, he throws hard. His average fastball velocity is 94.8 mph, and he probably would gain a tick or two as a short reliever. But his curveball is nasty and his slider is particularly effective against righthanded hitters. If anything, I'd like to see him throw more off-speed stuff, not less.